I am a strong believer that all stigmas should be challenged and debated – and in modern society we are getting far better at challenging these preconceptions. Social stigmas surrounding mental health, culture, gender, sexuality are often challenged and rightly so – but the social stigma surround change, especially from those closest to us, is rarely discussed.
disapproval or discrimination associated with a particular circumstance or characteristic, particularly those that distinguish and individual or group from the rest of society.
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives, on both sides of this coin. Either the one on the receiving end, or the one of those people dishing it out. It’s often put forward as a joke, or banter (I will do a future post on my disdain for this word). Sometimes it is even badged as life guidance or advice. In rarer and more extreme circumstances it can even be manipulation or an intervention.
It’s that moment when you, or a friend / family member announces they are making a life change. Whether it be a new hobby, a change of career, becoming vegan, a new partner, moving home, moving country, and so on. In that moment, many supportive friends and family members will provide neutral or positive responses, some will offer encouragement, however there are always those dissenting voices. As I mention above, it will often be delivered as a joke aimed to belittle your decision or take the piss (poking fun, for any readers from across the Atlantic). Sometimes its instantaneous, other times its behind your back, or later down the line, but it always seems to crop up, and it always seems to be those people closest to us that deliver the gut punch.
When challenged on this, the defences will range from “come on, it’s a joke” to “well you’ve brought this on yourself, its a silly decision” to “look, all I am saying is, you might want to rethink this”.
But why the hell do they do it? To maintain the status quo. No, not the band… but rather the maintaining of the current situation. Although now I mention it, the lyrics to one of their greatest hits – Down, Down are rather fitting;
I want all the world to see
To see you’re laughing, and you’re laughing at meStatus Quo
See, if you change then it impacts the equilibrium for others. You aren’t the same person you were, and that is too much for some people to accept. Forget that you might be happier & healthier, the important factor for these people is that you aren’t the person you are today… and that prospect frightens some people.
Does this change mean you won’t see them as much? Potentially make new friends? Live further away? Do things they wish they could do? Be more successful? Find true happiness?
For some, those questions will strike fear in to their hearts. They look to a future where you are no longer giving them what you currently do, rather than thinking about how amazing the change could be for you.
Stand And Deliver
These attitudes and the stigma it has created are exactly what we need to challenge. Trying something new, whether we fail or succeed, is crucial to our happiness. We need to stand and deliver a robust response when people decide to joke about our life choices or belittle them in anyway, whether its our parents, siblings, our best friends, colleagues or anyone else for that matter.
If following challenge they aren’t prepared to provide support and take it seriously, then ultimately they don’t deserve to be a part of the future you. Who needs negativity and nastiness in their lives?
Also, shout out to those who noticed me take my musical references from the 70’s through to the 80’s here with Adam and The Ants…
A Little Respect
I’ve started, so I am going to have to continue… In to the late 80’s with Erasure. I may be a 90’s kid, but you’ve got to appreciate the classics!
To be clear, the above is not suggesting that we should have tunnel vision and be ignorant to everyone and everything around us. It is really important to have respect for those closest to us and their views. Healthy debate and challenge is great and helps us focus and make solid and informed decisions. But that respect needs to go both ways. There will be people around you whose views and advice you may want to consider, so engage with them, have that open and honest debate… but also set the ground rules.
It isn’t a chance to belittle you or your vision, but a chance to help you shape it. If they want to input in to your future, and you are happy for them to do it, make it an investment.
Who Do You Believe In?
I believe in you. You should too. Ultimately we either have to be prepared to take some risks, albeit calculated wherever possible, or accept the current situation. Whatever your decision is, back yourself. If you don’t, you can’t expect those around you to invest in your vision either.
It’s ok to stay where you are if that’s what makes you happy, just as it’s ok to make wholesale changes. Society seems to have an unwritten rulebook when it comes to these things. It’s time to tear that work of fiction up, throw it out of the window and write your own future.
Lets see who is on the ball with their musical references – for this last one its a song released in 1999. If you know the artist, drop the answer in the comments!